Google’s TV

chromecast

Google just demoted your television set into a second screen, a slave to your phone or tablet or laptop. With the $35 Chromecast you can with one click move anything you find on your internet-connected device — YouTube video, Netflix, a web page as well as music and pictures and soon, I’d imagine, games — onto your big TV screen, bypassing your cable box and all its ridiculous and expensive limitations.

Unlike Apple TV and Airplay, this does not stream from your laptop to the TV; this streams directly to your TV — it’s plugged into an HDMI port — over wi-fi via the cloud … er, via Google, that is. Oh, and it works with Apple iOS devices, too.

I’m just beginning to get a grasp on all the implications. Here are some I see.

* Simply put, I’ll end up watching more internet content because it’s so easy now. According to today’s demonstration, as soon as I tell Chrome to move something to my TV, the Chromecast device will sense the command and take over the TV. Nevermind smart TVs and cable boxes; the net is now in charge. There’s no more awkward searching using the world’s slowest typing via my cable box or a web-connected TV. There’s no more switching manually from one box to another. If it’s as advertised, I’ll just click on my browser and up it comes on my TV. Voila.

* Because Google issued an API, every company with web video — my beloved TWiT, for example — is motivated to add a Chromecast button to its content.

* Thus Google knows more about what you’re watching, which will allow it to make recommendations to you. Google becomes a more effective search engine for entertainment: TV Guide reborn at last.

* Google gets more opportunities to sell higher-priced video advertising on its content, which is will surely promote.

* Google gets more opportunities to sell you shows and movies from its Play Store, competing with both Apple and Amazon.

* YouTube gets a big boost in creating channels and building a new revenue stream: subscriptions. This is a paywall that will work simply because entertainment is a unique product, unlike news, which is — sorry to break the news to you — a commodity. I also wonder whether Google is getting a reward for all the Netflix subscriptions it will sell.

* TV is no longer device-dependant but viewer-dependant. I can start watching a show in one room then watch it another and then take it with me and watch on my tablet from where I left off.

* I can throw out the device with the worst user interface on earth: the cable remote. Now I can control video via my phone and probably do much more with it (again, I’m imagining new game interfaces).

* I can take a Chromecast with me on the road and use it in hotel rooms or in conference rooms to give presentations.

Those are implications for me as a user or viewer or whatever the hell I am now. That’s why I quickly bought three Chromecasts: one for the family room, one for my office, one for the briefcase and the road. What the hell, they’re cheap.

Harder to fully catalog are the implications for the industry — make that industries — affected. Too often, TV and the oligopolies that control it have been declared dead yet they keep going. One of these days, one of the bullets shot at them will hit the heart. Is this it?

* Cable is hearing a loud, growing snipping sound on the horizon. This makes it yet easier for us all to cut the cord. This unravels their bundling of channels. I’ll never count these sharks out. But it looks like it could be Sharknado for them. I also anticipate them trying to screw up our internet bandwidth every way they can: limiting speeds and downloading or charging us through the nose for decent service if we use Chromecast — from their greedy perspective — “too much.”

* Networks should also start feeling sweaty, for there is even less need for their bundling when we can find the shows and stars we want without them. The broadcast networks will descend even deeper into the slough of crappy reality TV. Cable networks will find their subsidies via cable operators’ bundles threatened. TV — like music and news — may finally come unbundled. But then again, TV networks are the first to run for the lifeboats and steal the oars. I remember well the day when ABC decided to stream Desperate Housewives on the net the morning after it aired on broadcast, screwing its broadcast affiliates. They’d love to do the same to cable MSOs. Will this give them their excuse?

* Content creators have yet another huge opportunity to cut out two layers of middlemen and have direct relationships with fans, selling them their content or serving them more targeted and valuable ads. Creators can be discovered directly. But we know how difficult it is to be discovered. Who can help? Oh, yeah, Google.

* Apple? I’ll quote a tweet:

Yes, Apple could throw out its Apple TV and shift to this model. But it’s disadvantaged against Google because it doesn’t offer the same gateway to the entire wonderful world of web video; it offers things it makes deals for, things it wants to sell us.

* Amazon? Hmmm. On the one hand, if I can more easily shift things I buy at Amazon onto my TV screen — just as I read Kindle books on my Google Nexus 7 table, not on an Amazon Kindle. But Amazon is as much a control freak as Apple and I can’t imagine Jeff Bezos is laughing that laugh of his right now.

* Advertisers will see the opportunity to directly subsidize content and learn more about consumers through direct relationships, no longer mediated by both channels and cable companies. (That presumes that advertisers and their agencies are smart enough to build audiences rather than just buying mass; so far, too many of them haven’t been.) Though there will be more entertainment behind pay walls, I think, there’ll still be plenty of free entertainment to piggyback on.

* Kids in garages with cameras will find path to the big screen is now direct if anybody wants to watch their stuff.

What other implications do you see?

  • Michael S

    Jeff – Interesting article and I agree with about 95% of what you said. BUT all that Apple has to do to take the lead again is publish an SDK and open the app store.

    • http://lmjabreu.com lmjabreu

      All media played on iOS devices, using the native player, already supports Airplay with 0 extra effort. It’s also supported on the OS level to stream anything on screen. You can also assign specific content to the AirPlay screen, while displaying something else on the device. (Currently used in games mostly)

      Google’s solution is cheaper though, not as integrated into iOS but cross platform. That’s it.

    • Jon Watte

      The chance of Apple doing that, rounded to the nearest percentage point, is 0%. Apple’s business model is based on absolute control and lock-in of content.

      • http://www.onemanandhisblog.com Adam Tinworth

        Which is why Apple removed access to the web by disabling Safari on all devices years ago…

        …oh, wait…

        Still, it blocked Chrome…

        …what?…

        Um, what was the point again?

        Apple’s business model is hardware sales.

  • http://www.socialjeff.com Jeff Vreeland

    [I would like to preface my following statement with the point that I have ordered one already]

    The integration between the tablet/phone is what I am concerned about. Simply pressing a button and hoping it appears in the background has the potential to create a horrible experience for me as the viewer. Airplay from Apple devices onto an airplay supported device (Apple TV, Boxee Box, etc.) works pretty well.

    What I think is a bigger gain for Google is what you stated already and this is integration into providing me better search results.

    One implication that you eluded to slightly is the chance for sporting events to take advantage of this type of system through PPV events. I would love to subscribe to the World Cup in 2014 or the NFL Season Ticket directly on my Chromecast device (or Apple TV for that matter).

    [Edited my poor spelling)

  • mikeydangerous

    The first implication I thought of was the death of Google TV.

    • Bryan Hamon

      Looking back on things now it looks like Google TV and the Nexus Q were experiments (the Q more so that Google TV) This makes better sense than either of those products. The one thing that is always the one thing to determine if it will make it or not …. developers. But then again for $35 it’s not a hard sell so the more users the better it is for the devs.

      I can see a case where you buy a Nexus product or Chromebook and get Chromecast with it.

  • Cioaca Radu

    This looks much better than Apple Tv. Here is a fan from Romania,Europe

  • http://www.thepomoblog.com Terry Heaton

    Jeff, this disrupts everything, because it removes infrastructure, and infrastructure is where existing channels make their money. But it also elevates possibilities for content marketing, and this is where I’d predict things will go. Videos from everywhere, sans infrastructure. It’s the dawn of the unbundled video era (remember music?).

  • gutjahr

    Jeff, about the Apple TV stick – I imagined this to come out this January. Have a look at my January-blogpost http://gutjahr.biz/2013/01/apple-tv/ (sorry, it’s German) but the graphics towards the center of the post are self explaining. My thesis: You don’t need a Smart TV but only “dumb” (yet beautiful!) screens. The TV you already own – a smartphone/tablet – it must be a mobile device – for you can use it anywhere – in hotels, at conferences, at the airport. The ‘brain’ built into a box or tv set in your livingroom just doesn’t make sense. Best from Munich – Richard (Digitale Quartett)

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  • joe

    Also:

    Game platforms: since a chrome browser on the pc can stream games to the TV, now everybody owns quite a powerful gaming platform. And with this amount of users, developers will run for it. MS , Sony and Nintendo should be scared.

    High quality video conferencing: After waiting a bit, google releases a low cost, wireless HD camera that connect to the chromecast. It gives you high quality video conferencing, hopefully with support for maintaining eye-to-eye contact. Suddenly you get something very close to the telepresence experience cisco sells, which replaces business travel.

    If it catches , huge impact on many travel related industries. Also ,it makes it easier to start teleservices, with much better experience. For example , telemedicine.

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  • Eric Hydrick

    “I remember well the day when ABC decided to stream Desperate Housewives on the net the morning after it aired on broadcast, screwing its broadcast affiliates. They’d love to do the same to cable MSOs.” – It’s important to note that this did not screw over consumers. People who wanted to catch up on Desperate Housewives had more options (DVR recording or via ABC’s website and any apps they put out), and ABC captures the ad revenue (more so than say via DVR, where people would have likely fast-forwarded commercials).

    Hopefully, stuff like Chromecasts lowers the cost of publishing niche content for small but passionate (and loyal) fanbases.

  • Chris H.

    I don’t think this will lead to unbundling. In fact, the opposite is happening right now with content providers leaving Netflix and making new deals elsewhere or by offering their stuff themselves through their own sites. It may hurt the classic cable companies in the foreseeable future, but for consumers the content is fragmenting even more than before.

  • dhruva

    the wsj leaks a couple weeks ago seem pretty accurate now..we have the nexus q replacement..what they also mentioned were appliances, refrigerators and the like..!

  • http://ldopa.net/ Jeff Hobbs

    You’re vastly overestimating this product.

    It’s neat and all, but it’s a me-too for anyone familiar with AirPlay and how it treats h.264/HTML5 video and how it works with iOS apps. The bigger problem to solve is the difference between private and public consumption of video (public among groups of people and among your family). Most net video is not Netflix, and it feels weird to throw it up on screen.

  • Prasad Tiruvalluri

    Off course, there is nothing stopping Samsung, HTC, Sony or anybody to embed this in their devices (TVs), Hometheaters etc., and make some kind of proprietary stuff similar to Google cast..

  • Dave L.

    I’m impressed by the price point (I bought two of them because of that… it’s an impulse buy at $35) but I don’t think this is as disruptive as some people think it is. It’s “open” to a point, but if I want to buy a movie, book, or TV show, can I take it with me? If not, it’s more lock in (Apple iTunes=Google Play). I can take my music from iTunes to Play Music, but the rest of it? Not so sure.

    I think Google TV was far more disruptive, but look how that turned out. It’s crap, let’s be honest. Right now this has the price advantage, but that’s it. Are normal consumers going to buy this? My dad is in his 80’s and has a Roku box. He watches MLB TV and is quite happy with it. Could I buy the Chromecast for him? Nope. He wouldn’t be interested. He doesn’t own a smart phone or tablet, so it’s not for him.

    Let’s not overestimate the importance of this for anyone other than Google at this point.

  • jacopogio

    counting the days of the apparence of the first TV set with “proprietary HDMI connections” to try to block this … ;)

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  • robusdin

    If Google can get Aereo partnered on this, or if just Aereo uses the API themselves – it could be a real boon to them, and REALLY start to kill the CableCos. Why? Because Aereo streams and becomes a DVR for all local stations in each given market. If I want to cut the cord right now and make sure I get all my local stations – I have to mount an HDTV antenna somewhere. If I am somewhat out of range of a market’s signals (I live in the PRinceton, NJ area where we get both NYC and Philly but are not close enough to either for the signals to be very strong) – then Aereo is a much easier solution for me. Partner that with the Chromecast and boom! I have my locals, and whatever other content I’m willing to pay for (or not pay for). Aereo also records stuff for me with its DVR functions. So I essentially have a local market DVR for network content – including live stuff I CAN’T get anywhere else – local baseball games, news, etc… And I get it on my TV using the CHromecast instead of having a dedicated PC hooked to my TV.

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  • Ron Smith

    You have to wonder what’s going on at Google. On the one hand, they introduce Chromecast, and if it works as advertised, promises to be a gigantic success. They get millions of, if not new, then more convenient eyeballs to see their ads, content, etc., and they charged only $35. Brilliant! On the other hand, they introduce the $1,500 Google Glass. Extremely limited audience, extremely limited function, and priced beyond the means of the vast majority of people.

  • Mike Harris

    I’m sure many have pointed this out – but to summarise:

    • Apple TV does stream from the web (youtube, vimeo, hulu plus, netflicks, etc). Airplay is one of its functions – but not the only one …

    • You can control it with your phone if you wish – does the Chromecast gave a remote control option?

    This does not negate the fact the Chromecast is a cool toy and has the potential to disrupt – but your article is weakened by easily disputed clams.

    Oh Jeff, I love your work – I really do – but could you do us a favour
    and actually examine an Apple TV, or even talk to someone who has used
    one before you write about its capabilities & functions?

    Ta

    Mike

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  • Stephen Bertoni

    Interesting thoughts. And Chromecast is even more interesting. But please Mr. Jarvis, it’s spelled “dependent”.

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  • joe

    The chromecast can also cause problems for wireless carries: reading user comments on the chromecast, many are replacing their routers to new routers , to get higher resolution with chromecast. New routers often have comfortable, secure options for offering free wireless to neighbors, and are not controlled by carriers. Widespread free wifi can really hurt carriers, like what republic wireless is doing.

    Really , it look like google have find a single cheap device that can pick a fight with everyone big.

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